An infinitive has no tense.
It cannot serve as the primary verb of a clause, but it often follows the main verb.
- I love to eat ice cream.
- (main verb = “love,” infinitive = “to eat”)
An Infinitive may be a subject or follow a linking verb.
- To sleep is to dream.
- (subject = “to sleep” [infinitive], linking verb = “is,” what follows = “to dream” [infinitive])
It does not indicate any tense. That is the job of the primary verb.
- to walk
- Sara wants to walk a mile every day.
- (primary verb = “wants,” infinitive = “to walk”)
- to bake
- In school, my twins are learning how to bake a cake.
- (primary verb = “are learning,” infinitive = “to bake”)
- to use
- Grandpa plans to use his home office for a weight room after he retires.
- (primary verb = “plans,” infinitive = “to use”)
- to lift
- Grandma thinks that he is too old to lift weights.
- (verb in first clause = “thinks,” primary verb in second clause = “is,” infinitive = “to lift”)
- to explain
- She refuses to explain what she means by “too old.”
- (primary verb = “refuses,” infinitive = “to explain”)
A split infinitive is not a crime.
In earlier years, splitting an infinitive with another word (often an adverb or an adverbial phrase) was considered a grammar crime. Now, however, the Chicago Manual of Style considers it “a legitimate form of expression and nothing writers or editors need feel uneasy about” (14th edition, 2.98n).
- The boys sat at the table to happily eat the banana cream pie.
- (Infinitive = “to eat,” splitting adverb = “happily”)
- Mary pushed out her boat to merrily row it upstream.
- (Infinitive = “to row,” splitting adverb = “merrily”)
- The instructor wanted to find a way for his students to unwittingly learn the material.
- (Infinitive = “to learn,” splitting adverb = “unwittingly”)
A gerund is a verb acting as noun.
A gerund has no tense (present, past, future, or conditional).
- Swimming is good exercise.
- (“Swimming” = gerund as noun, subject)
- I love swimming in the ocean.
- (“Swimming” = gerund as noun, direct object)
- Being in the water allows rapidly moving arms and legs without feeling the effects of gravity.
- (“Being” = gerund as noun, subject)
- (“Moving” = gerund as verb modified by the adverb “rapidly”)
- (“Moving = gerund as verb with direct object [“arms and legs”])
- (“Feeling” = gerund as noun, object of preposition [“without”])
- (“Feeling” = gerund as verb with direct object [“effects”])
- Walking your dog is good exercise for you and the dog.
- (“Walking” = noun as subject, “dog” = direct object)
- Children today are guilty of wanting more than they have.
- (“wanting” = noun as object of preposition)
- My cat has been accused of sleeping under the covers of my bed.)
- (“sleeping” = noun as object of preposition)
- I have told Garfield many times, “Sleeping on my head is not acceptable.”
- (“Sleeping” = noun as subject)
Grammarians may argue about the function of “-ing” forms in any given sentence, but unless you are diagraming clauses, it really doesn’t matter. (See me hunch down to avoid being hit by a 2×4 in the hands of a raging English teacher.)
(“Raging” there is an adjective. Is that a gerund or a participle?)
(Click on each tense flavor for more detailed explanations.)
simple tense (present, past, future)
progressive or continuous tense (present, past, future)
perfect tense (present, past, future)
perfect progressive tense (present, past, future)
“IF” statements (conditional)
- conditional present (probable)
- conditional future (probable)
- conditional past (hypothetical)
- conditional for situations contrary to fact